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By DANNY P. SMITH
The Starkville Christian School Cougars clawed and scratched their way back into the game against the Immanuel Center for Christian Education Rams Thursday night, but failed to make that final push that could have resulted in a victory.
After watching the Cougars close the gap to 40-36 with 2 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the game, the Rams out-scored their host 8-1 the rest of the way and ended up winning 48-37.
"They always had the answer for our runs and that was tough, but I was proud of the guys,"
Starkville Christian coach Jonathan Little said. "They played really well and they went through a lot of adversity, especially with Ethan (Willers) going out. It shows a lot of poise and character tonight. There's nothing to be ashamed about."
Willers had to leave the game in the second half when he took a hit to the eye.
Immanuel took a 10-9 lead after the first quarter, then extended the margin to 14-9 on a basket by Ross Moore in the opening moments of the second quarter.
The Cougars went on a 7-0 run to gain a 16-14 advantage with 4:07 remaining in the first half.
Aaron Bowman had a basket, while Chris Horstemeyer hit a three-point field goal and Caleb Jordan sank a pair of free throws.
However, the Rams got the momentum back and closed the half with six straight points to regain the lead at 20-16.
Immanuel opened the second half like it ended the game with a 8-1 run to provide a cushion at 28-17, but baskets by Bowman and Paul Michael Calhoun got Starkville Christian to within 30-23 at the 2-minute mark of the third quarter.
After the Rams pushed their advantage out to 36-25 early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars made their last charge led by birthday boy Calhoun. Calhoun scored six-straight points to help SCS get to within 36-31.
The Rams scored, then Austin Foxx hit a basket and hit a free throw to knock the difference to 38-34 with 3:03 left in the game.
Immanuel's Wade Lee and Starkville Christian's Horstemeyer traded baskets, then the Rams closed the game with their 8-1 run.
Calhoun was the leading scorer for the Cougars with 12 points. Bowman had eight points and Jordan added six points.
"Caleb played better because he had been kind of slow after that ankle injury," Little said. "Paul Michael continues to get better every game and he's a little more comfortable."
Lee and Justin James had 14 points each to lead the Rams.
Starkville Christian (3-8) joins the other teams from the school with games at Calhoun Academy tonight.
Starkville Christian 19
The Lady Rams took control of the game early by establishing a 21-4 lead after the first quarter.
Immanuel out-scored Starkville Christian 16-7 in the second quarter to extend the margin to 37-11 at halftime.
Mary Grace White was the only Lady Cougar to score in double digits with 10 points, but contributions were also made by Sydney Whitehead with four points, Charity Morris with three points and Alex Calhoun with two points. Calhoun hit the final shot of the game for Starkville Christian.
The Lady Rams were led by the 14 points of Kaitlyn Shriver.
The Lady Cougars (0-12) nearly pulled off their first win of the season on Monday, losing to Winona Academy 37-35.
"It was a good game, but they just didn't have the experience of handling that situation," Little said.